Professor goes abroad with approach to treating autism

We asked Sac State Professor Caio Miguel to tell us about his recent sabbatical to Italy and Iceland. Miguel specializes in applied behavior analysis as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders. 

caio miguel

Psychology professor Caio Miguel's sabbitical to study and teach applied behavior analysis took him to universities in Italy and Iceland.

By Caio Miguel, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

As part of my sabbatical during the spring semester, I was fortunate to have spent some time in Italy and Iceland teaching and learning about behavior analysis. 

My first stop was in Salerno, where I was invited to present at a conference on applied behavior analysis (ABA) as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders. The conference was organized by a few faculty members from the University of Salerno together with a large institution that provides services to children with autism.

Seven researchers from the U.S. were invited (including myself). The attendees were Italian teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and behavior analysts.

At the conference, I was able to see some of the work the Italians were doing on teaching functional communication and was also able to discuss related work conducted here at Sac State. I also gave two three-hour workshops on 1) how to develop new (generative) language in children with disabilities and 2) how to teach children to solve difficult tasks using language.

caio miguel

   Miguel led workshops at the University of Salerno.

Following the conference, I spent some time in Rome sightseeing (of course) and discussing research and service collaborations with behavior analysts working in the region.

Italians have long recognized that applied behavior analysis is the treatment of choice for children with autism, but have very few academic programs that specialize in this field, so they must rely on international expertise. Consequently, many conference attendees became interested in visiting our campus and potentially attending our competitive ABA graduate program.


  In Iceland there is high demand for training in the treatment of autism spectum disorder. 

My next stop was Reykjavik, Iceland. I have had a longstanding research collaboration with Iceland native Dr. Anna Petursdottir who teaches at Texas Christian University.

Additionally, I have worked closely with other Icelanders both in graduate school and during my postdoctoral clinical work, so my visit to Iceland was long overdue.

I served as one of the keynote speakers at the Icelandic ABA Conference and my wife (who is also a behavior analyst) gave a workshop on how to set up a treatment program for recently diagnosed children with autism. The conference and workshops were held at the University of Iceland campus.

Although small, the behavior analytic community in Iceland is quite sophisticated. Over the years, numerous graduates from the University of Iceland have come to the U.S. to obtain their graduate degrees, some of whom have stayed here and obtained leadership positions in the field.

However, like almost everywhere else in the world, the demand for applied behavior analysts is higher than the supply, so professionals were thankful for having us share our clinical experiences with them.

Overall, I had a great time learning about new research, cultures, and (most importantly) trying new foods. Both Italy and Iceland are beautiful countries worth visiting; I surely had quite an enriching experience. 


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